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Paper info: Interorganizational Resource Interfaces and the use ofCustomer Accounting


Interorganizational Resource Interfaces and the use ofCustomer Accounting


Johnny Lind
Stockholm School of Economics
Johnny Lind and
Torkel Strömsten
Stockholm School of Economics
Torkel Strömsten

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 21st IMP-conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2005.


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The role of the customer has received increased attention in the management accounting and controlliterature recently. Understanding and tracing the revenues and costs of customers has always beenof outmost importance for firms. In business markets which often are concentrated in terms ofnumbers of buyers and sellers, it is even more important to know in what extent a customercontributes to the firm’s profitability. Instead of looking at internally formulated strategies or thecompetitive conditions in a generalized environment, we argue that the way a firm measures acustomer can be explained by the idiosyncratic interfaces and relationships with customers a firm havedeveloped over time. In these relationships the character of the firm’s organizational and technicalinterfaces to its customers are instrumental. The technical interfaces can differ in terms of howadapted products and production facilities are to each other. Some technical items are highlystandardized while others are adapted to a specific counterpart. The organizational interfaces a firmhas differ in terms of direct commercial commitment (e.g. amount and frequency). While somerelationships affect the firm to a large extent commercially, others are only marginal to the supplier.The variation in interfaces creates heterogeneous customer relationships and just as heterogeneouscustomers must be managed taking the heterogeneity into account, so must also the control of thefirm’s customers take into account this variety of customer interfaces. We illustrate with example fromthe telecom company Ericsson and the forest company Holmen how the character of the technical andcommercial interfaces can explain what type of customer accounting technique a firm has applied aswell as the level of sophistication that is needed to measure its customers. We suggest a typology ofrelationships, based on the combinations of technical and commercial interfaces a firm has.